Lughnasadh – A Solitary Ritual

Lughnasadh – A Solitary Ritual July 21, 2015

Holidays and holy days are better with friends and family.  But many Pagans maintain solitary practices.  Even if you work with a group, sometimes you can’t be with them for one reason or another.  And sometimes your group meets on a convenient day but you feel the need to celebrate on the exact day.  Whatever the reason, many Pagans will be celebrating Lughnasadh by themselves.

cornfield McKinney August 2014 bLughnasadh is the first of the three harvest festivals.  It’s the grain harvest, a festival that would later become the medieval Christian Lammas, or loaf mass.  It was named for Lugh, one of the Gods of the Tuatha De Danann, but it was celebrated in honor of His foster mother Tailtiu who cleared the lands of Ireland for planting but died from exhaustion afterwards.

Both the grain which is cut down to feed us and the story of Tailtiu remind us of the necessity of sacrifice.

This ritual, though, does not focus on sacrifice, but on Lugh’s role as Samildánach – the Master of All Arts, and what we can learn from Him.

Setup

This ritual can be done outdoors or indoors, day or night.  I prefer to do rituals outdoors whenever possible, but that’s a personal preference, not a requirement.  Just find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed.

Think of four things you’re good at – four arts.  You don’t have to be an expert at them, just competently skilled.  This is neither the time for false modesty nor for braggadocio.  You’re the only human who’s going to know, so be honest with yourself.

What you choose is entirely up to you.  If I surveyed everyone, I would expect to see people’s professions, academic and artistic interests, religious activities, spiritual and magical practices, hobbies, family relations, athletic interests, and probably a lot of things I haven’t even thought of.  The important thing is to choose four – but only four.

Now choose an object to represent each of your four arts.  Try to be as elegant and creative as you can.  Yes, you can use a candle or a drawing on a piece of paper if there’s no object available, but it’s much better if you find a physical object, even if the connection is a bit of a stretch… especially if the connection is a bit of a stretch.

On the altar in the accompanying picture, the compass represents engineering, my profession.  The pen represents writing – even though all my writing is done with a keyboard.  I’ll let you speculate on what the chalice and the medal represent.

Lughnasadh Altar 2015 01Set an altar in the center of your space with three candles, matches or lighter, a bell, a wand or athame, incense, bread, and a drink for offering and sharing.  Beer – made from grain – is especially appropriate, but wine, mead, or water will also work well.  Set your four objects at the corners of the altar and set a large white candle in the center.  If you’re indoors you’ll need an offering bowl.  Set candles in the four directions.

Preparation

Do whatever gets you in a ritual frame of mind.  Take a bath, listen to music, wash your hands, change your clothes.  I rarely “robe up” for solitary ritual, but I do like to wear some of my Pagan jewelry.

Light the incense and do a final check to make sure everything is in place.

Opening

Approach the altar and pause for a moment of silent meditation.  Ground and center using whatever method you find most effective.  Then ring the bell three times.

Say “I come to this place and this time to celebrate the holy day of Lughnasadh.”

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger.  Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle clockwise, drawing the circle as you go.  See the circle rising in deep blue light.  Make a complete circle, and see the ends joining together.

When you return to the East, set down the wand or athame and light the quarter candle.  Say “Spirits of the East, Spirits of Air, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your wisdom. On this sacred night of Lughnasadh, welcome Air!

Move clockwise to the South.  Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the South, Spirits of Fire, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your inspiration.  On this sacred night of Lughnasadh, welcome Fire!

Move clockwise to the West.  Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the West, Spirits of Water, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your love.  On this sacred night of Lughnasadh, welcome Water!

Move clockwise to the North.  Light the quarter candle and say “Spirits of the North, Spirits of Earth, I call to you.  Come into this circle, I ask, and share your stability.  On this sacred night of Lughnasadh, welcome Earth!

Move clockwise back to the East, then return to the main altar.

Invocations

Light the first candle on the altar and say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, you who were here long before me, I invite you into this circle.  Join this celebration of Lughnasadh, I ask, and accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the bread and beer in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the beer onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Land spirits – hail and welcome!”

Light the second candle on the altar and say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, you whose child I am and on whose foundations I build, because of you I have life.  Join this circle, I ask, and add your blessings to this rite.  Accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.

Raise the bread and beer in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the beer onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Blessed ancestors – hail and welcome!”

Light the third candle on the altar and say “Lugh Lamfada, Lugh of the Long Arm, You who led the Tuatha De Danann to victory over the Fomorians; I ask Your presence and Your blessings as I celebrate this festival named for You and celebrated in honor of Your foster mother.

Samildánach, Master of All Arts, I ask Your blessings on the harvests of the fields and on the harvests of my life.  May I learn from Your great example.  Lugh, please accept this offering of food and drink, given in hospitality and in love.”

Raise the bread and beer in offering, then crumble the bread and pour the beer onto the ground or into the offering bowl.

“Lugh – hail and welcome!”

Main Working

Move to the near left corner of the altar and pick up the object you placed there.  Hold it in your hand and feel its solidity.  It is real, as is your skill in the art it represents.

Remember why you chose this art for this ritual:  the satisfaction it brings, the good your practice of it creates in the world, the necessity that someone do it.  Whatever your reason, remember it and feel it, even if you can’t fully articulate it.

Now, how did you develop this skill?  Remember books, classes, and lessons.  Remember watching intently as a parent or teacher demonstrated how to do it.  Remember admiring skilled artists and trying to learn from them.  Remember hours and hours of practice, failed first attempts, better second attempts, and even better efforts later on.  Remember how you got good at what you’re good at and feel it, even if you can’t fully articulate it.  Take as much time as you need.

When you’re ready, set the object back on the altar.  Pause, take a deep breath, and move clockwise to the next object on the far left corner of the altar.

Repeat the process for each object in turn.  Pick up the object, feel its reality, remember why you chose it, remember how you got good at it, then return it to the altar.  Pause, then move clockwise to the next corner of the altar.  When you’ve completed this for all four objects, return to your original position in front of the altar.

Take a deep breath.  Now visualize and feel energy flowing from each object into the large white candle in the center of the altar.  Are all the colors the same, or do different objects and the skills the represent emit different colored energies?  Do all the energies flow similarly, or do they flow at different rates and intensities?  However they flow, see them flowing into the candle, filling it with power.

When the energies have filled the candle, light it.  As it burns, feel the powers of these four arts swirling and mixing in the candle.

Say “Lugh Samildánach, You are Master of All Arts.  I am master of these four.  Grant Your blessing, I ask, that I may learn all the arts necessary to complete my Great Work in this life.”

Break off a piece of bread and hold it up in offering.  Crumble some on the ground, then eat the rest.  Feel yourself taking in the blessings of Lugh.

Pick up the beer and hold it up in offering.  Pour some on the ground, then take a sip yourself.  Feel yourself taking in the blessings of Lugh.

Take a moment to feel and appreciate all that is going on:  the power of the objects, the power of the central candle, and the mighty presence of Lugh.  When the time feels right, return the glass to the altar.

Farewells

Say “Lugh, Master of All Arts, I thank You for your presence and Your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell. 

Say “Ancestors of blood and ancestors of spirit, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell. 

Say “Spirits of the land, spirits of this place, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell. 

Closing

Say “Spirits of the North, West, South, and East, Spirits of Earth, Water, Fire, and Air, I thank you for your presence and your blessings. May there be peace and honor between us now and forever.  Hail and farewell. 

Pick up the wand or athame, or if you prefer, just use your index finger.  Move to the East, pause, then slowly walk the circle counterclockwise, pulling up the circle as you go.  See the last of your circle disappear as you return to the East.

Ring the bell three times.

Say “This rite of Lughnasadh is complete.  Hail and farewell.”

Afterward

Take a breath.  Turn on some music, or if you were playing background music, change to something lively and vocal.  Drink some water.  Turn on the lights. Do something to reorient yourself in the ordinary world.

Extinguish the candles and the incense, then begin to pick up and put away.

If you performed this ritual indoors, dispose of the offerings in an appropriate manner.  I prefer to deposit them outdoors in an inconspicuous place where they’ll be eaten by wild creatures.  Depending on where you are, you may need to do something else.

You may wish to write about your experience in your journal, particularly if your experience was strong.  Focus on recording the experience, not on your interpretation of the experience.  You have the rest of your life to figure out what it all means, but you have only a short time before your recollection of the events begins to fade.

* * * * * * * * *

May you be blessed by the Master of All Arts, may your harvest be bountiful, and may your Lughnasadh be bright and joyous!

Lughnasadh Altar 2015 02

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